‘Sweet-talking’ love scammer from Macau arrested for duping Hong Kong women out of HK$2.6 million
Suspect allegedly preyed on single women, widows and divorcees, plying them with gifts and pretending to be well off
A 57-year-old man from Macau was arrested for allegedly duping eight Hong Kong women, most of them widows or divorcees, out of HK$2.6 million (US$331,000) in total over the past four years, police said on Thursday.
The victims were aged between 49 and 62. One of them lost HK$1.2 million after the suspect allegedly said he would marry her then persuaded her to give him money to invest in mainland Chinese property and currency.
Police said the scammer pocketed the funds and did not make any investment.
At least five of the victims were widows or divorcees, and some of them were low-income workers, according to a law enforcement source.
The suspect was arrested in a public housing flat on Yau Lai Estate in Yau Tong at about 8pm on Wednesday. Officers seized about HK$40,000 in cash along with watches and jewellery, including timepieces from famous brands like Rolex and Cartier, though some might have been counterfeit, the source said.
Police said the unemployed Macau identity card holder was thought to have cheated eight women out of HK$2.63 million between July 2014 and April 2018.
Acting superintendent Wilson Fan Chun-yip of the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau said: “The con artist preyed on women who were either single or divorcees. He befriended them on social media platforms. After developing ‘romantic’ relationships, he then invented different excuses to lure victims to invest in mainland estates or renminbi.”
Police said the victims realised they had been swindled after they lost contact with their so-called lover.
A police source said the “sweet-talking” scammer bought gifts for his targets and pretended to be well off when he saw them. This was a departure from the usual modus operandi for online love scams, in which victims never meet the swindlers in person.
Police arrested the man for obtaining property by deception, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. As of 1pm on Thursday, the suspect was still being held for questioning and had not been charged.
In the first four months of this year, 159 people were duped out of HK$98 million in online love scams, a 218 per cent rise compared with 50 cases in the same period last year, when scammers bagged HK$21 million.
The biggest loser was a 56-year-old woman who was conned out of HK$26.4 million over 18 months. The money was transferred to more than 10 bank accounts in the city, Malaysia and other countries in more than 300 transactions.
The victim realised she was being duped in February and contacted the police anti-fraud squad, which managed to recover only HK$2 million from local bank accounts.